Rock music’s audiences have been subjected to the most idiotic urban legends… Were Paul McCartney and Avril Lavigne replaced with doppelgangers after they accidentally died? Are Tupac, Jim Morrison of The Doors and Elvis Presley still alive?
Did Keith Richards smoke the ashes of his father mixed in with heroin? Is Katy Perry really JonBenét Ramsey? Did Kiss’ Gene Simmons’ long tongue come from him having a cow’s transplanted?
The story that a male rock star had a gallon of semen pumped out of his stomach after giving oral sex to sailors in a gay bar, started with Rod Stewart, then Robert Plant, and finally, Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block.
Here are 20 more still doing their rounds.
20 of rock’s greatest urban legends
(1) Jeff Buckley actually topped himself
The official story was that Jeff Buckley’s end was due to “accidental drowning.” He’d moved from New York to Memphis because (a) New York was too chaotic; and (b) he was frazzled because he had to come up with a follow up to the masterful Grace.
On May 29, 2997 – the day his band was to arrive to start recording – the 30-year old and a roadie were sitting in the evening by the Mississippi River listening to the radio and playing guitar. He suddenly decided on a swim, fully clothed, although warned the area was dangerous.
Buckley was last seen floating on his back singing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ when a passing tugboat created waves. He was never seen again… until some days later when his body was seen up-river.
Officially it was accidental drowning. But former manager Dave Lory revealed Buckley was “acting erratic” for two weeks before.
“He was trying to buy a house that wasn’t for sale,” said Lory who published a book Jeff Buckley from Hallelujah to the Last Goodbye in 2018.
“He was trying to buy a car that wasn’t for sale.”
Lory got the feeling Buckley was yearning for “a normal life”: he proposed to girlfriend Joan Wasser and applied for a job as a butterfly keeper at Memphis Zoo.
True or False?: Six years after the singer’s death, Lory had gone to a psychic in England. She told him, “A Jeff or a John is trying to get a hold of you, it has something to do with water.”
She felt a bracelet that belonged to Buckley and said, “Well, I don’t know if this makes sense, but he didn’t mean for it to happen, but he didn’t fight it. It’s not your fault. It’s okay to let go.’”
(2) Young Marilyn Manson played a nerd on TV
Was prince of darkness Marilyn Manson on TV in his younger days when he was Brian Warner?
He either played nerdy Paul Pfeiffer on The Wonder Years or Kevin on Mr. Belvedere.
True or False?: False. Pfeiffer was played by Josh Saviano who later became a lawyer, and Kevin by Rob Stone. Brian was studying journalism in Florida when the show screened in the US.
(3) The Beatles smoked pot in Buckingham Palace
After they made a shitload of ££ for England, The Beatles were awarded MBEs in 1965.
According to Beatles Bible on October 26, they arrived at Buckingham Palace in John Lennon’s Rolls Royce for the ceremony, with 189 others.
In 1970 Lennon claimed the four had smoked two joints in a palace bathroom – and giggled through the ceremony. Newspapers gleefully ran cartons of police raiding Buckingham Palace to arrest the Queen for allowing dope to be smoked in her home!
True Or False?: George Harrison said it was a regular cigarette, Ringo Starr couldn’t remember and Paul McCartney ducked the issue.
(4) Lady Gaga fled the set in tears after shooting one scene in A Star Is Born
After filming the ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ scene from A Star Is Born, about her late husband (played by Bradley Cooper), Lady Gaga rushed out of the set tearfully without saying goodbye because she was overcome with emotion.
True Or False?: False. Just before the scene was to shoot, Gaga got a call that her best friend, who’d been battling cancer, was slipping away, hence the rapid exit. Although she missed her friend’s passing by 10 minutes.
This story is not as odd as the other Gaga legend: that she has a penis.
(5) Peter Garrett was going to be the Oils’ manager, not singer
Apparently when Midnight Oil got together, there was a toss-up if Peter Garrett or their manager and sixth member Gary Morris – charismatic and good looking – would be the singer.
They flipped a coin and Big G scored mic duties.
True Or False?: False. Peter Garrett told this writer he wasn’t sure where the story began, but suggested it was probably the band’s humour, as Morris tended to give forth his opinions on every aspect of the Oils and probably gave Garrett tips on singing and performing live.
(6) Radio Birdman singer ate from a human skull
Someone threw a human skull onto the stage during a Radio Birdman gig. Singer Rob Younger took a bite out of the skull’s contents and spat it out over the audience, causing a mass exodus.
True Or False?: True, probably exaggerated through the years, but it happened at the Comb & Cutter in 1975 in Blacktown, in Sydney.
See the Birdmen fly in 1977:
(7) Kylie Minogue insured her ass for $5b
Kylie Minogue insured her ass for $5 billion, presumably in case it fell off as she kept shaking it all about during her concerts.
True Or False?: We’re not sure. But if true, the Minogue caboose is valued at more than Jennifer Lopez’s which is rumoured to be $27 million.
Other rumoured insured body parts are Bruce Springsteen’s vocal chords ($6 million), Dolly Parton’s breasts $600,000), Mariah Carey’s legs ($1 billion), and Rhianna’s legs ($1 million) but no musician has insured their smile, as Julia Roberts was rumoured to have done for $30 million.
(8) Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon syncs with The Wizard Of Oz movie
This one started on a Pink Floyd internet forum where if you played Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side Of The Moon at the third roar of the MGM lion on the DVD format The Wizard Of Oz, they synced up perfectly.
A scene by scene appraisal by Goldmine indicated some truth in it.
Watch ‘Dark Side Of Oz’ on YouTube
True Or False: False. In 2010 drummer Nick Mason told the BBC, “The Tin Man, and the Straw Man, and all the rest of it, had absolutely zero to do with [Moon].”
On MTV he called the whole thing “ridiculous”, and then cheekily suggested Dark Side was meant to synch to The Sound Of Music.
The Wizard of Oz had another urban legend lingering since it was released in 1939. As Dorothy and the others march off singing “we’re off to see the wizard”, you see a green munchkin (or a stage hand, depending on who’s peddling the story) hanging from a branch, committing suicide after being dumped by a lover.
A close look shows it’s actually a bird.
(9) Axl Rose eats his pets
Axl Rose had a mean streak about him, and used to eat his own pets.
True Or False?: False. This doozy started out when the band was being totally outrageous in its early days.
Axl Rose moaned “England was one of the greatest places for that, because the media here would write anything to try to promote you. They said I ran over my dogs and then I ate them. They said all kinds of crazy things.”
(10) Sam Smith wears a wig
Social media scoundrels claim Sam Smith wears a wig because he’s bald.
True Or False?: False. But he admitted to the New York Times that his hair started to fall out due to stress. He began to use Rogaine and take Propecia, and the hair loss stopped.
(11) Disney murdered Lindsay Lohan’s twin
Turns out singer/actress Lindsay Lohan didn’t play both roles in the 1998 movie Parent Trap, about twins who rediscover each other. No, Lohan had a twin, Kelsey, who co-starred.
Lindsay was more talented, so, get this, Disney had her murdered before the movie came out.
True Or False?: False. But to substantiate this, baby photos of the pair surfaced, with slight changes in the face to prove there really were two of them.
It was even was argued that Lindsay had a troubled life after… not because fame took its toll but she felt “guilty” over her poor dead twin.
(12) Jimmy Barnes was asked to join AC/DC
Is it possible that Jimmy Barnes, then a relative unknown in Adelaide, was already having his set of pipes talked about, and asked to join AC/DC before Bon Scott was offered the gig.
True Or False?: False. According to Barnes, “Bon and I were mates and I thought he was the perfect frontman for them.”
Watch Barnesy do ‘High Voltage’ in Sydney last year with Bryan Adams:
The story might have legs because for a few months in 1975, Barnes left Cold Chisel to sing in Bon’s previous band Fraternity.
What is true is that Van Halen did sound him out about Barnes singing for them. He was visiting Los Angeles when Eddie Van Halen rang with an offer, which Jimmy turned down.
(13) Iggy Pop offers to kill himself for $1m
In 1973, according to Paul Trynka’s Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, Iggy Pop’s life revolved around drugs and violence.
The New York club scene was abuzz with gossip that Iggy told a promoter he’d be willing to kill himself on stage at Madison Square Gardens for a fee of $1 million (or $6 million in today’s money).
The counter-rumour, put forward by Andy Warhol, was that Iggy planned to top himself at a New Year’s Eve show at the Academy of Music.
True Or False?: False. Iggy played the Academy show where, Trynka stated, he confused the audience – and the band – by introducing each song as ‘Heavy Liquid’.
(14) Mick Jagger has a strange way of eating Mars bars
In 1967 when 20 cops swooped on the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards’ Redlands property in Sussex, England, everyone was coming off LSD trips.
The next day, some newspapers reported that police had interrupted an orgy, and seen Jagger eating a Mars Bar from his girlfriend Marianne Faithful’s vagina.
True Or False?: False. Faithfull had just had a shower, and was dressed in a bathrobe. Police reports never mentioned a Mars Bar or Marianne’s faithful.
Keith Richards sniffed in his memoirs: “How the Mars bar got into the story, I don’t know. It shows you what’s in people’s minds.”
Stream ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’:
(15) Singing cowboy Roy Rogers was to headline Woodstock 69
The legendary Woodstock festival in 1969 was to have been headlined by singing cowboy Roy Rogers
But when Rogers declined the honour fell to Jimi Hendrix, who blew the place apart with an electric version of the US anthem Star Spangled Banner, with guitar effects to denote bombs falling on unarmed Vietnamese civilians below.
True Or False?: True. Woodstock co-promoter Michael Lang said at the launch of his 2009 book The Road To Woodstock: “Roy Rogers had turned me down. I wanted ‘Happy Trails’ to close the festival. We all grew up with Roy Rogers.”
Lang wasn’t to know that in 2021, a musical around ‘Happy Trails’ would open.
It can be understood why Rogers wanted nothing to do with these dirty commie unwashed hippies. Lang agreed, “He was a Republican, he was pro-Vietnam War, he was the antithesis of everything we stood for.”
(16) Stones for Bluesfest, Bowie for Big Day Out
Each year there are excited rumours of some superstar headlining an Australian festival, these days aided by how easy it is to post fake “leaked” posters. This year it was supposed to be Rage Against The Machine at Splendour, even though they were going to be playing a US tour at the time.
A few years ago, when the Stones were talking about doing a blues-only set, the story went around that Bluesfest Byron Bay had got them. When approached for a comment, a startled Bluesfest director Peter Noble said it was the first he’d heard of it.
It never happened, of course, but there are some who insist the Stones were keen. Similarly, David Bowie was in line to headline a Big Day Out.
This one is true. BDO general manager Sahara Herald told The Industry Observer “Somewhere I still got a fax sent through with an offer to David Bowie.
“His manager sent a fax back, this was back in the days before email obviously, at what they were expecting a show. It seemed like an outrageous amount of money but in hindsight it probably wasn’t!”
(17) Getting a pizza of the business
When Canadian band Bachman-Turner Overdrive released their 1973 track ‘Takin’ Care of Business’, leader Randy Bachman told journalists that the piano had been played by a pizza delivery guy.
He was delivering some food to the Steve Miller Band who were in the next studio and mistakenly entered BTO’s room. They played him the track and the kid said it needed some piano, so they let him do it.
The song reached #14 in Australia.
Hear it here and check out the piano:
True Or False?: False. The band came clean years later that they’d asked Norman Durkee, music director for Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, who was working in yet another studio in the building was asked to take a break and play piano.
He hastily scribbled down the chords on a pizza cover and did it in one take – which is where the story came from.
(18) Lou Reed producer made kids cry for a recording
A track called ‘The Kids’ on Lou Reed’s concept album about two junkies, Berlin (1973) has kids crying loudly – apparently after producer Bob Ezrin told his sons David (7) and Josh (2) their mother had died, to get the desired effect.
True Or False?: False. According to liner notes to Reed’s anthology Between Thought and Expression, Ezrin told David, “he was doing a play in the studio and he needed some kids’ voices to sound scared because their mom was being taken away.
“The first few attempts didn’t sound terrifying enough but on a third, unprompted, his two-year-old joined in and just started screaming. The two children screamed so loud that they distorted the tape.”
The song’s line: “And I am the water boy, the real game’s not over” inspired the name of UK band The Waterboys.
Ezrin’s kids are also heard on the 1976 Kiss song ‘God Of Thunder.’
(19) Phil Collins sings about drowning man
Phil Collins’ 1981 hit ‘In the Air Tonight’ about his divorce to first wife Andrea Bertorell, has a spiteful line, “Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand” led to wild speculation.
The story began that it was about Collins witnessing a drowning in which a bystander refused to help. It grew where Collins spotted the man at a concert.
A third version was that the man who drowned had raped his wife. A fourth story was that a young Collins had seen a man drown another, but was too far away to help.
He got a PI to find the man, sent him a ticket t his show, and premiered the song with a spotlight on the man throughout.
True Or False?: False. Collins said it was about the frustration of coming home from a tour to find the house empty.
The urban legend made it onto Eminem’s 2000 song ‘Stan’ in which the character sings, “You know that song by Phil Collins, ‘In The Air Tonight,’ about that guy who could have saved that other guy from drowning but he didn’t?
“Then Phil saw it all then at his show he found him?
“That’s kind of how this is. You could have rescued me from drowning.”
(20) Stevie Nicks took coke up her ass
Stevie Nicks snorted so much of Peru that her nose sprung a hole. So being a wealthy rock star, she paid an assistant (handsomely we assume) to literally blow it up her ass.
True Or False?: False. Speaking to Q in 2001, Nicks snorted through her mouth: “Of course that never, ever happened. That is an absurd statement. It’s not true.”
But she admitted the hole in the nose was true, quipping it was big enough to put a belt through.
Talk about speaking through her ass.